Hurricane Floyd wallops Web
September 17, 1999
by Tom Spring
(IDG) -- Hurricane Floyd's gale force winds and torrential rain are having an effect online as well as on the coastline.
Weather sites are getting socked by visitors like Gabrielle Levecque, a Delaware resident keeping her eye on Floyd. Glued to Weather.com at work, she is one of millions of coastal residents turning to the Internet to prepare for the worst as they hope for the best. "I want to know whether I should leave work and go home and start boarding up my house," Levecque says.
Floyd provides a defining moment for Web sites like Weather.com. The site reports record demand on its servers, which vigorously dole out the latest on Hurricane Floyd. Weather.com served a staggering 23.5 million page views on Tuesday, breaking all previous records, says Debora Wilson, president and CEO of Weather.com, which is owned by the Weather Channel.
"Traffic is up tenfold," she says.
Mike Steinberg, senior vice president of AccuWeather, also reported huge traffic gains. "With a storm as powerful as Floyd, we try to give people the most powerful tools and information possible," Steinberg says.
Weathering the traffic
Record usage caused delays and problems on hurricane and news sites across the country. Even the National Hurricane Center showed strain from heavy usage. Weather.com, AccuWeather.com, and Intellicast.com suffered brown-outs.
The National Hurricane Center offers weather maps and updated advisories of a storm's location. It provides forecasts and graphics showing a storm's location, its predicted path, and areas under watches and warnings. The site records the wind strength of hurricane and tropical storm winds, and strike probabilities.
A link from the home page for the City of Charleston, South Carolina takes you to the city's hurricane action plan. Callers to City Hall hear a recorded message that offices are closed for the town's evacuation.
Other sites show up-to-the-nanosecond forecasts and Doppler radar satellite images. Network affiliate WCOB of Delmarva, Delaware steams live video of Floyd pummeling the Delaware coastline. The American Red Cross site offers guidelines for assembling a disaster supplies kit, and suggests how to protect property.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency takes advantage of the Internet to disseminate information, notes Marc Wolfson, a FEMA spokesperson. Its site offers pre- and post-disaster information. Storm-tracking pages cover basic preparedness and weather maps.
The next best thing to being there for Emily Springfield, desk-bound in Michigan but with her grandparents in Florida, are sites like the National Hurricane Center. Its real-time reports of conditions let you browse the same information seen by meteorologists in Miami.
"For a while, I was very worried about them and didn't want to keep calling," Springfield says. "So I kept checking the Internet and chatting with people from Florida online."
Others keep a virtual eye on the storm through Webcams at hurricane-lashed beaches on North Carolina's Outer Banks. The sites are great resources, but many suffer from Net congestion.
But for people needing immediate information about evacuation routes, the Internet is no substitute for local radio and television newscasts, officials agree.
Floyd fades over Maine, leaving behind 13 dead
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